DR. DAVE HEPBURN | APRIL 24, 2013
The backbone of the world
Gotta love hood ornaments. I’ve noticed they often make hoods more ornamental. Personally, I’d love to own one of the animal ones, like a jaguar, particularly if it came attached to the hood. Certainly, whenever a Dodge Ram with those massive curled horns pulls up into my rear view mirror, I tend to clench most of my rear view clenchable parts, sort of doing my own Kegels.
Alas, I don’t own a vehicle with any hood ornaments, unless mosquitoes, dragonflies and motorized wheelchairs are classified as ornaments. But last month, while sitting behind my steering wheel on the side of a road, I glanced at the hood and thought I imagined the Ram tough horns at the end of my hood. Yes! Looked very much like the hood ornament I loved, with one exception. These ones moved. And furthermore they turned out to be attached to a ram, a tough one. I had, in fact, just crested the continental divide, the backbone of the world, in Glacier National Park in Montana and was sitting in my non-Dodge rental car when two massive bighorn sheep took a shining to my rental. As they menacingly hoofed it around to my door, I desperately fumbled about trying to locate the electric window buttons, managing only to turn on the windshield wipers, headlights and both seat warmers. Ended up doing everything but roll up the window. So I laid on the big horn just to get this bighorn out of my grill, so to speak.
Excitement on the continental divide, aka the backbone of the world. And you needed some backbone to sit there and confront Mr. RamTough from the safety of your rental car.
Backbones are the backbone of many practices as 90 percent of the population will have some problem with their back at some time. Entire careers and mortgages are built on the backs of those whose back are built incorrectly.
Driving to the top of the continental divide in Glacier was a real pain as it involved so many hairpin curves that by the time I reached the top my toupee had turned sideways on my head.
So it is with curves of the spine. Some curves in our spine can turn us in all sorts of unwanted, unsightly directions and cause no shortage of pain.
The most well known is scoliosis, an S or even C shaped curving of the spine. If you have a child in the early teens, the time when a growth spurt often can reveal an underlying scoliosis, you can perform a perfunctory test to see if they are abnormal, or more abnormal than is normal at that age. Teens, of course, love for their parents to test them on anything so adding the painless “bend forward test” will be a unpredictable joy to them. Though I do recall that when my mother had me bend over it was followed by a predictable pain, courtesy of the wooden spoon. Stand behind himteen or herteen (scoliosis much more prevalent in girls) as they slowly bend forward and then back up again. Look for any asymmetry of the spine, shoulder blades or oriental mafia tattoos. Treatment of scoliosis depends on when it is found and how severe it is and can range from braces to surgery to physical therapy to skillful neglect (how I treat most things.)
Kyphosis is the infamous hump of the upper back that can have you swinging off church bells. There can be several causes depending at the age of onset. Adolescents may have a condition where several vertebrae wedge together called Scheuermann’s Disease named after the man who discovered it, Dr Disease. (for those of you who already completed that last sentence....you know me too well.) In a geriatric population i.e., older adolescents, osteoporosis’ slow disintegration of the spinal column leads to this very common and painful kyphosis.
Finally, lordosis aka swayback is the exaggerated low back (lumbar) inward tilt demonstrated so beautifully by pregnant women or most of West Virginia. Should small pets be able to do the backstroke in the sweat pooled in the small of your hyperlordotic back, consider physiotherapy to strengthen your hamstrings or loosen your hip flexors. Alternatively, give birth to those twins, Krispy and Kream.
When it comes to curves of the spine, though there is no need to be Dodge ram rod straight, should you have too much curve in the wrong places, not only could you have all sorts of back pain, more importantly, you could be less ornamental.
Dr. Dave's book The Doctor is In(sane) is now available for those with a sense of humor and half a sense of health. Learn more and meet Dr. Dave or contact him at www.wisequacks.org.